The best herbal all natural sleep aid is made with Traditional Chinese Herbs. Try Chinese herbs they are a true natural sleep aid, you can’t the way you feel the day after.

You Can’t Dismiss 2000 Years of History

2000 years of chinese medicine history2000 years ago today, the year was AD 9. (on most calendars anyway)  No cell phones, no cars, no health insurance. Things were pretty different, or were they? People still talked without cell phones, traveled without cars and got sick without insurance. What hasn’t changed in 2000 years is herbal medicine. Specifically, Chinese herbal medicine is not much different than what we use today.
 
2000 years ago if you caught a flu (let’s say in China), you went to a local doctor and a cure was given in the form of bark, roots, stems and leaves. You took home a little bag, boiled your raw Chinese herbs in water and then drank the water. Many people around the world do the same thing today using the same herbal formulas used 2000 years ago.  But does the world remember this history? In Asia and the East the answer is a resounding yes. The West where “modern drugs” have a foothold the answer  is… the tide is turning. Finding herbal medicine, what’s often referred to as “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM) is getting easier.  
 
One group supporting complementary medicine that has grown exponentially in just the last 10 years is The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. This group includes traditional medical schools  across the country. Members include Stanford, Yale, Northwestern, Duke University and  from The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota across the country to the University of Hawaii. Forty four medical schools in the U.S. have recognized the value in integrating western medicine with other modalities including herbs, acupuncture and incorporating  the mind, body and spirit into modern medical practices.
 
Their mission is to advance the principles and practices of integrative health care within academic institutions.  They support  and mentor academic leaders, faculty, and students to advance integrative health care curricula, research and clinical care. They also disseminate information on rigorous scientific research, which includes research on Chinese herbal compounds. (connect here to a research study done on  Chinese herbal medicines for people with impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting blood glucose)
 
As is often said, history repeats itself.  I think we’re returning to our roots. (no pun intended) Funny how the more things change the more they stay the same and Chinese herbal medicine is proving just that,  even after 2000 years.
In case your interested The Consortium’s website is: http://www.imconsortium.org/

5 Prevention Tips For PMS & Menstrual Cramps

Whether you’re a professional mother or a working professional, or both, each day you provide unending value, support, and energy to the world around you. In order for you to sustain those around you, you must first sustain yourself. Here’s a few tips to keep your menstrual cycle symptoms from interfering with your daily life every month. Remember, making even subtle changes to your routine can make an incredible difference in your quality of life.

1. Movement with Intention: Take a brisk 45 minute walk every day or break it up into smaller segments of 15 minutes in the morning, at lunch and after dinner. If you already spend a fair amount of time during the day walking, count your steps with an odometer. Approximately 2000 steps is equivalent to one mile. Most importantly, move with the sake of intention. If you’re experiencing a high amount of stress, set an intention at the beginning of the walk to release that stress with each step you take. If walking isn’t your style, but biking or running is, do that instead. Simply do what you enjoy on a regular basis. Stress is a key factor in PMS so set your intention to release it daily.

2. Raw Nutrition: Ideally you want all of your food sources to be fresh as opposed to processed. Processed foods are stripped of most of their nutritional value by the time they reach your plate and are essentially digested as empty calories. If this seems overwhelming, start simply by regularly incorporating one new vegetable into your diet each week. Food should be our first medicine and vegetable have all the nutrients your body craves. Feed your body well and it will BE well.

3. Daily Juice: Start your day with a tall glass of fresh vegetable juice instead of a tall latte. If vegetables sound daunting first thing in the morning, add small amounts of fruit and/or yogurt to create a more balanced flavor. For bonus points, try to use only fruits and vegetables that are in season or a macrobiotic diet. Our ancestors ate this way and it’s a sure fire way to super charge for body which translates to less PMS symptoms.

4. Indulge: Slip between the sheets for a good night’s rest 30 minutes earlier than usual. At the end of the week this equals an additional 3.5 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep is one of the highest risk factors for poor health and therefore one of the most valuable things you could choose to indulge in. Getting enough sleep allows your body run smoothly and efficiently. Many hormone functions are produced or are timed to release during sleep or right before sleep. So any shortage will affect your monthly cycle in the long run.

5. Consider Herbal Alternatives: Explore alternative therapies such as Chinese Herbs. Dang Gui, has been shown to help balance hormones naturally, effectively decreasing PMS symptoms such as mood swings, cramps, headaches, bloating, and breast tenderness. Dang Gui is known as the female Ginseng, therefore a very important herb. You can boil this herb raw and drink as a tea or purchase in tea bags or bulk. Either way drinking a cup of dang gui tea each day helps your body gradually balance out your hormones and alleviates both PMS during the month and reduces cramping during your cycle.

This post is proudly a part of Prevention Not Prescriptions Tuesday @ The Kathleen Show. For more information and to check out some other great health blogs click here.

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Martial Arts for Seniors – Tai Chi Study Say It Improves Osteoarthritis of Knees

tai Chi Senior

Another Tai Chi study was just released and I couldn’t resist adding it here.  I’m an avid  Tai Chi fan and love to practice this slow, mental relaxation everyday.  It’s a wonderful way to clear your head while relaxing and stimulating your body.  It’s now also been proven to help those suffering from Osteoarthritis in the knee according to Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts who just released results from their study.

After  40 patients completed  twice weekly Tai Chi classes for 12 week,  knee pain was significantly less in the Tai Chi group vs the control group.  Additional benefits included, improved  physical function, self-efficacy, depression and health status for knee OA were also significantly better in the Tai Chi group vs the control group and best of all no severe adverse events were observed.

"Tai Chi reduces pain and improves physical function, self-efficacy, depression, and health-related quality of life," the study authors wrote. Furthermore,  the mental discipline of Tai Chi may minimize negative effects of chronic pain by improving psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and perceptions of health.  If you have knee pain, find a class near you or even a video you follow at home.  It’s not just your knees that will benefit from this ancient Chinese art form.

Read the study results here.

Find Balance in Your Life by adding A Chinese Herb

Balance with Chinese Herbsby: Jennifer Dubowsky
Today I want to talk about balance, one of the most fundamental concepts in Eastern Philosophy and Chinese Medicine. Striving for balance is the search for harmony or equilibrium in our lives. This idea is often pictured as the Yin Yang symbol. There are many examples of yin and yang in our every day lives.  Your more active energy is considered Yang in nature and Yin is your calm energy. You feel best when Yin and Yang work together, for example, if you get good nights sleep (sleeping/nighttime is yin), you wake up refreshed and are able to have an active and fulfilling day (running around with kids/daytime is yang). This is an example of how the concept of yin and yang helps you to create balance in you life.
 
In my practice I often see parents, especially mothers, who are out of balance because they lack yin energy.This calming yin energy is depleted because so many parents, especially those who have children with special needs, are required to be always active and alert. So, if you have only a few moments to capture some calm,

Here are 5 quick ways (most take fewer than 5 minutes) to nourish your yin.

1. Place one hand on your lower abdomen and breathe deeply until you feel your stomach rise. Exhale slowly and repeat 10 times. When you are stressed, you breathe into your chest and that increases anxiety but these slow and deep breaths will help you regain your calm.

2. Eat a handful of Goji berries. They are great snack and they nourish your yin or try almonds before you go to bed. Almonds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps induce sleep and relaxation.

3. Use lavender essential oil in your bedroom on your bed sheets, in your bath, or as a perfume.Lavender’s scent is relaxing.

4. Take 5 minutes of silence every day, away from children, spouse, TV, Blackberry, cell phone, everything. Silence is the balance to all life’s unavoidable stimulation.

5. Remember one thing for which you are grateful. Write it on a post-it note; carry it with you if you need too. Being grateful helps balance out the difficult periods.

Jennifer Dubowsky, a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois. You can find more about Jennifer at  Acupuncture Chicago.

This article is designed to provide the reader with clinical research results and the potential benefits and or risks associated with CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines). The author advocates neither for or against any particular therapy and recommends individuals speak with licensed medicial practitioners before using any Chinese herbal supplements or other health supplements.

Monthly Period Cramps, Frankincense and Myrrh to the Rescue

myrrh tree a Chinese herbModern Science is proving Chinese herbs are  useful for pain and menstrual cramps.

Frankincense and myrrh are two herbs mentioned repeatedly in the bible. I find it fascinating that Egyptians used myrrh for embalming the bodies of Pharaohs while frankincense was used in India as incense for worship during biblical times.  These shrubs or small trees of the family Burseraceae  produce a liquid when the bark is punctured. That liquid or resin is then dried and cooked with vinegar or honey for medicinal uses in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (TCM)  While both trees originated in the Arabian peninsula, we know they arrived in China by 400 AD, where the exploration of their medicinal properties was noted.

What’s incredible is  both of these trees is used in TCM combination’s or herb formulas mainly to unblock the flow of blood, treat traumatic injury and stop pain. They are excellent for abdominal pain during menstruation and for irregular menstruation .  These Chinese herbs can also be used in formula combination’s to help treat amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and dismenorrhea (painful menstruation).  Furthermore, both can be used externally, frankincense is known to ease the tendons and muscles  while myrrh is used for non-healing sores such as bed sores.

Dietary supplements using these Chinese herbs are  now produced from the active substance of  frankincense, known as Boswellic acid.  Researchers have identified Boswellic Acid as a  potent anti-inflammatory agent .  This acid inhibits the 5-LOX (lipoxygenase) system, which is involved with enzymatic pathways that produce leukotrienes and thrombaxanes (inflammatory molecules) from fatty acids.  (Following all this?) Drugs that inhibit this pathway are normally used to treat arthritis, asthma and ulcerative colitis.  Unlike conventional NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, the accepted treatments for pain and  inflammation, prepared boswellia doesn’t seem to cause stomach irritation in small doses and it does not cause liver damage like acetaminophen.    The anti-inflammatory properties in Boswellia  Acid  are also effective  in reducing the aching and stiffness associated with back pain.

Ggulsterone is the active substance within the myrrh resin. After many years of research, guggulsteron, also known as Guggul, has become popular in the United States for its cholesterol-lowering properties.1 By inhibiting the FXR gene in the nucleus of liver cells, this leads to the more efficient excretion of cholesterol in the liver, thus lowering serum cholesterol levels.  Amazing what Chinese herbs come from a scrubby desert  tree.

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes frankincense and myrrh as blood regulating herbs that complement each other. They invigorate the blood, dispel blood stasis and reduce swelling, relieve pain and promote healing.  It is more than coincidence that  myrrh is commonly used in TCM for menstrual irregularities and  Western medicine research substantiates guggul’s ability to improve liver functions.  TCM theory and Chinese herbs, emphasize the importance of  liver  blood for regular and healthy menstrual function and relates  stagnate liver blood to the cause of painful periods.

Given the compelling scientific evidence regarding the chemicals in these two Chinese herb  resins and the history of frankincense and myrrh, we can be certain of their potent medicinal properties.   It certainly is amazing that nature has given us such powerful medicines for menstrual cramps, arthritis, cholesterol and for pain.  Nature sure has had a remarkable way of providing for our needs, today and in ancient times.

1.(Tripathi YB, et all Thyroid stimulating actions of z-guggulsterone obtained from Commiphora mukul. Planta Med 1984;1:78).

This article is designed to provide the reader with clinical research results and the potential benefits and or risks associated with CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines). The author advocates neither for or against any particular therapy and recommends individuals speak with licensed medicial practitioners before using any Chinese herbal supplements or other health supplements.

Can Insomnia Lead to Death? Chinese Herbs Can Help

sleepyAccording to several recent studies from the National Sleep Foundation and Science Daily the answer to that question is a resounding "yes".  Insomnia seems harmless enough. Perhaps you simply have a hard time falling asleep at night. Or perhaps you toss and turn for a few hours, and then wake up the next morning and drink an extra cup of coffee to make up for it. How could this be harmful? While it has been proven the body can physiologically survive for 11-18 days without sleeping, the side effects and danger begin on the very first night,  irritability and blurry vision, slowed reaction time, diminished memory capacity and speech control are some of the noticeable effects. From there it can build to a constant underlying sense of nausea,  an increase in cortisol, which is linked to depression and cardiovascular disease. Even at the most benign level, you’re still 300% more likely to catch a cold if you sleep for less than seven hours a night.  (not a good idea during swine flu season) In extreme cases, the effects of sleeplessness are considered so harmful that it has been shunned as a form of unethical research and used as torture. The US Department of Transportation reports that there are about 200,000 car accidents a year caused by sleepy drivers , a figure higher than those killed by drunk driving.   If you’re lucky enough to survive your daily commute, you’re still considered at a higher risk for developing depression, as well as increasing the odds that depression will linger for a longer period than those who maintain healthy sleep hygiene. Often the insomniac becomes his or her own worst enemy, creating a maddening cycle of drinking coffee, taking habit-forming medications that don’t allow for REM sleep, and staying in bed longer each morning in an attempt to ‘make up’ for what they’ve missed. As the insomnia becomes worse, so does the anxiety and frustration, and the cycle continues. The good news is that you can break the cycle. While there is much to be said for making modifications in your diet to support sleep hygiene, as well as creating a routine that ‘trains’ your body into relaxing, you can also supplement these changes with Traditional Chinese herbs. Herbal supplements have been used for centuries to repair the body’s natural balance by helping to induce the very REM sleep that you need in order to wake up rested the next morning. Whether the cause of your sleeplessness is due to everyday stressors, such as situational stress, over-thinking, anxiety, worry, restlessness or grief, Chinese herbs have been highly effective in helping hundreds of thousands of individuals reclaim their health and prevent further, more life-threatening diseases.  In comparison to the Western counterparts, Traditional Chinese herbs do not cause “hangovers” that decrease work productivity or feed into the caffeinate/sedate cycle. Simply put, you have the opportunity to wake up feeling refreshed each and every morning by investing in some ancient herbal remedies.

NIH says Chinese Herb passes the test for Rheumatoid Arthritis

rheumatoid arthritisRheumatoid Arthritis is an extremely debilitating disease.  A dear friend suffers with it and has for years.   But at 80 years old now, she won’t consider doing much to change her ways.  I wish I could convince her that Chinese herbs have been used successfully for this crippling disease.  I’m always trying to disseminate reliable and scientific   information about Chinese herbs.  Hope this helps someone who also suffers from RA.

An article published in the Aug 2009, Annals of Internal Medicine  compares the use of a Chinese herb for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, (RA).   121 patients were included in the study which took place at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland and at the University of Texas, Dallas, along with 8 other rheumatology clinics around the U.S.   The Chinese herb medicinal  used in this study is called Tripterygium wilfordii,  or Thunder god vine and is used for a variety of  inflammatory diseases in Chinese Medicine.  In fact, because vines have a climbing nature and are able to meander and crawl into crevices and into tight places,  it is theorized in Chinese Medicine that medicinal vines have the same type of effects in the body.  Reaching into tight spaces and meandering and opening blockages throughout the body.  This may not scientifically explain why the vine helps RA, but it does makes sense energetically.

Understandably,  Western audiences have not been exposed to Chinese Medicine theory, therefore,  I”ll include the  scientific explanation presented in this study.   The  “interleukin-6levels rapidly and significantly decreased in the group taking the Chinese herb root extract.” (interleukin-6 plays a significant role in RA because it acts as both a pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory.  It is secreted by T cells and macrophages to stimulate immune response to trauma and other tissue damage leading to inflammation)  This just may be the explanation as to why participants in the  RA study showed  “significant improvement “  while taking this Chinese herb compared to those who did not complete the study.

The bottom line, the roots of  Thunder god vine seems effective in treatingpatients with active RA and may offer an alternativetreatment approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis.  To find someone who can help you with your RA and use herbs like this vine to help your condition, find a qualified Acupuncturist who has a strong background in herbal medicine. Let us know if you need a referral.

Read the whole study here.

Ginger better than a placebo for Nausea

The National Cancer Institute funded a study on ginger for nausea resulting from chemotherapy which included 644 patients. The most effective doses of ginger were 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams per day. The study participants also took traditional anti-nausea drugs in this double blind study.  All doses of ginger were found effective and all doses significantly reduced nausea compared with a placebo.

Ginger root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Ginger is one of the most common herbal remedies found in Chinese herbal formulaginger[1]s for colds and flu, nausea, it’s used to warm the body, improve digestion and reduce phlegm in the lungs. There have been numerous studies on the effects of ginger conducted in China. Many do not get translated into english. However, one particular study published by Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal concluded that “ginger was able to protect the gastric mucosa from stress-induced mucosal lesions and inhibits gastric acid secretion, due in part to inhibiting growth of h. pylori as well as offering anti-oxidant protection against stress induced gastric damage”.

The Gap Between Diet and Disease, Part II of Diet Theories

An old Chinese Proverb says,  He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of the physician.

The Chinese have used food and Chinese herbs, basically the human diet, to treat seemingly incurable diseases as far back as records can show.  We now have studies that prove that foods and Chinese herbs are effective in treating nearly every affliction known to man. It is a Western concept  that  the word “diet”  refers almost exclusively  to a  weight  loss system.  A Chinese diet  may or may not  focus on weight loss, but it’s primary intention is to treat an ailment.   A Westerners “diet” focuses on protein, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients, whereas a Chinese diet  focuses on the:  Five Flavors, Five Energies, Movements of Foods and Organic Actions of Foods.  Maybe this sounds like a foreign language, but the basic concept is pretty easy, if I feel cold, I should eat something warm.  If I feel hot, I should eat something cold. (don’t  we all do this?)

 

This is of course a simplification and I know you want more details. It can get a little more technical,  so stay with me.

weight-loss-diet

I covered the Five Flavors and Five Energies is a part one of this article. Connect here to read that article.

 

Here I will delve into the “Movement of Foods” and “Organic Actions of Foods”.  

The movements of  foods has nothing to do with a musical score. Foods have a tendency to move inward, outward, up or down within us.  To move inwards means to move from outside towards the inside.  Foods that do this often alleviate constipation.  Foods that provide movement from inside towards outside reduce fever and induce sweating.   Downward moving foods can relieve vomiting and asthma.  Upward moving foods  help symptoms of diarrhea, and prolapsed of organs. This is only a general overview, but even a little knowledge can be of great benefit.  The movement of foods also corresponds to the seasons.

 

Here is a brief overview of  which foods are best in which seasons.  Springtime is all about growth and upward movement so eat foods that also promote an upward movement such as celery, kidney beans and shiitake mushrooms. Foods that move outward are best in the summer these foods have a hot energy and are usually pungent like green pepper, red pepper, black peppers and soybean oil.  In the autumn foods with a downward movement are preferred.  The downward movement corresponds to the leaves falling.  Food such as bananas, barley and bean curd are best in the autumn.   Lastly, in the winter eat foods that move inward, just as we move indoors in the winter.  Inward moving foods include bitter gourd, clams and seaweed.

 

Lastly, a brief introduction about the Organic Actions of Foods,  it’s not a Greenpeace protest.  It simply refers to the specific organ on which a particular food will act.  In the West we may think all food goes to the stomach, the intestines and through the digestive organs.  But there is more  to the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.  Different foods really do effect different organ systems in Chinese medicine and diet theory.  This can get complicated, many foods have more than one energy and act on more than one organ. Carrots act on the lungs, wheat on the heart, spleen and kidneys, almonds act on the lungs.

 

Organic actions of  foods have been discovered  throughout history  through both inductive and deductive methods. Traditional Chinese medicine has always put great emphasis on the association of  foods and our internal organs.  A simple example is chicken liver, it’s helpful for blurry vision, and Chinese Medicine believes our livers are connected to our eyes.

 

I have simplified how  a balanced diet in Chinese theory  focuses on the Five Flavors,  Five Energies, Movements and Organic Actions of foods. Yet, I hope you understand that from a Chinese viewpoint the word  “diet” has almost nothing to do with weight  loss and everything to do with how foods effect our body.  An organic balanced diet is one that is not necessarily rich in organic foods, but one that balances the internal organs. An individual’s balanced diet is always a mixture of foods with different flavors and energies suited to the needs of that individuals constitution.   I hope this is not such a foreign concept now even though it  may be a completely new view of diet and nutrition for you.  Sun Shu Mao wrote about it approximately 1400 years ago and seeing that history always repeats itself, it’s time to reiterate it today.   If you want to learn more check out:  Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and my other blogs on Chinese Medicine and foods.

Warning, Those Sleeping Pills May Be Causing Other Health Hazards

  1-Pharmacies-thumb-300x354-103Friends just returned from their traditional summer camping trip.   This years’ trip was more exhausting for one particular husband, he was tired all day long.  He wasn’t getting a restful nights sleep even though he loves to camp, was out in the fresh air and ON vacation.  The problem stems from his addiction to his sleeping pills, which he needs even on a camping trip.  Although the nightly pill provided him some sleep it made him extremely drowsy during the day, especially since he's increased the dosage to get the desired effect.  He often wanted to just sit at the camp site and take a nap. If this you or someone you know, it’s time to kick the sleeping pill habit.  

Sleeping pills are an expensive habit both monetarily and physically because of the lingering side effects. Use of sleeping pills is becoming a growing problem.  If your taking them for any length of time,  you will notice the need to increase your dosage as your body's tolerance grows. At a  certain point they become completely ineffective.  The most popular "A" sleep pills and other sleep medications were designed to be taken for only a week or two at most. If you continue on this  medication  longer than two weeks the greatest concern is the side effects, which according to the label “cannot be anticipated”.

Side effects may include: allergies, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, drugged feeling, headache, indigestion and nausea.  If you experience any of these side effects, the price you pay for a good nights sleep just went up ten fold. For some, using "A", along with taking a SSRI or serotonin boosting antidepressant, will produce unusual changes in their thinking and/or behavior, according to  the insert information. Most definitely alert your doctor if this happens to you.  

Side effects of sleeping pills can also develop or change in intensity, so keep this in mind if you suddenly develop indigestion it may be caused by the sleeping pill, not necessarily related to an otherwise digestive/gut  problem.  Other warning from the manufacturers of this medicine can cause a special type of memory loss. It should not be taken on an overnight airplane flight of less than 7 to 8 hours, since "traveler's amnesia" may occur. Yikes, what’s travelers amnesia? Do you completely forget where you are and where your going.  (Apparently this has happened or it would not be a written warning).

The most common risk with prescription sleep aids used long term, is the risk of increasing the dosage in an attempt to keep the effectiveness as your bodies tolerance level increases. The same problem my friends husband was experiencing.   The overdose warning alone scares me from going near this drug. “People who take too much may become excessively sleepy or even go into a light coma. The symptoms of overdose are more severe if the person is also taking other drugs that depress the central nervous system. Some cases of multiple overdose have been fatal.”

All we want is a good nights sleep, this is just getting to complicated. I don’t  want to die.   I’m baffled that a drug with this many warnings can sell as much as it does. There’s more on the label, lets not miss this part of the warning:  “Until you know whether the medication will have any "carry over" effect the next day, use extreme care while driving, and you should be aware that they may be more apt to fall.”   Hope your  taking mass transit if your using a lot of this drug.  Older adults, in particular need to be careful. All I can figure is most people don’t read this stuff, they do print it in extra small writing.   More from the label, “use "A" cautiously if you have liver problems. It will take longer for its effects to wear off.” “If you take this sleep aid for more than 1 or 2 weeks, consult your doctor before stopping."

Sudden discontinuation of a sleep medicine can bring on withdrawal symptoms ranging from unpleasant feelings to vomiting and cramps.” "When taking "A", do not drink alcohol. It can increase the drug's side effects. If you have breathing problems, they may become worse. "If "A" is used with certain other drugs, the effects of either drug could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor ." 

These are direct quotes from the Ambien official website.  Maybe it's time for a natural sleep aid for that restful night of sleep you so desire.